TDSAT directs BECIL to conduct re-audit of Skynet's systems in Uttar Pradesh

Skynet had moved TDSAT against SPN's opposition towards it extending operations in whole UP

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has asked BECIL to re-conduct the audit of the head end of Skynet Digital Service Pvt Ltd in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The decision has been taken on the request of Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) India Pvt Ltd, who on several grounds has been denying the MSO to cover the whole of the north Indian state. The interim order in this regard, in favour of Skynet, will stand functional till the next hearing that has been scheduled for 11 April 2019.

Skynet had moved TDSAT with the matter last year stating that there was stiff opposition from broadcasters, including Zee Entertainment and Star India Pvt Ltd along with SPN, when it went ahead to extend its area of operation to the whole of Uttar Pradesh.

Responding to the case, BECIL had conducted an audit of the head end of the MSO in January 2018 and then again in August 2018.  It was found that Skynet’s system was compliant with the necessary regulations. While the other two broadcasters stood satisfied with the output, SPN was granted the permission to conduct its own audit of the MSO’s systems.

The audit was conducted in February last year and the report was submitted to the MSO in the month of April. Skynet filed its response to the report in July 2018.

However, in the latest hearing SPN highlighted a series of issues in Skynet’s system based on its audit, which the latter stated were not incorporated in the earlier audit report submitted to it. The MSO also alleged that SPN is acting in collusion with Den Networks Ltd, which is its competitor in the state.

SPN stated that though it had entered into an agreement with it as per the interim direction of this tribunal, it is bent upon raising one or the other grievance in the name of audit only to please Den Networks Ltd.

The three major complaints raised by SPN against Skynet are: “Package Alternation Logs not provided from all the three CAS. Historical package channel composition not provided from two of the CAS; On analysing the package-wise channel composition as per the three CAS and SMS, differences were observed in the channel composition of CAS and SMS; On analysing the package-wise channel composition as per the three CAS and SMS, differences were observed in the channel composition of CAS and SMS.”

As per details, three SPN channels namely, Animax, Sony Aath, and Tez were to be found only in SMS but not in CAS. The broadcaster thus had requested the tribunal that either it should be permitted to conduct the further audit or the three major areas of concern highlighted earlier may be referred to BECIL for its scrutiny, analysis, and opinion.

Skynet though refuted all the claims made against it by SPN. It has stated that it has no qualms in BECIL conducting an audit of its systems again.

The tribunal thus noted, “BECIL shall be at liberty to do whatever is required for giving a firm opinion in respect of the three issues noted above and to record its opinion whether the Skynet Digital Service Pvt Ltd’s head-end and system is regulation compliant, particularly, in view of the three allegations noted above. It will be for BECIL to decide what materials are relevant and whether fresh materials are required or not.  The cost of this exercise to be done by BECIL shall be met by the respondent (Sony Pictures Networks India Pvt Ltd), broadcaster for the present. It is expected that BECIL shall submit a report within six weeks.”

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